Night Ride

The two-lane highway is dark at 11:30 p.m. on a Sunday in November.  Low piles of snow line the dry road, shining in the headlights, still clean though two days old.  They still have 70 miles to go, and only a few cars and pickups appear at random intervals.  The driver puts in a CD, chosen blindly in the dark, turning out to be a compilation made by a friend over 20 years past.  Only 60 miles to go.  Diet coke barely holds off numbing fatigue. 

Your challenge: Who’s driving?

9 responses to “Night Ride

  1. Gus 60 miles outside of Sheboygan. The driving beat of a long-forgotten recording of “Hey, I Got Your Polka Right Here,” keeps him company as he thinks about having left his son alone at that funeral parlor, and wondering if the boy will ever be able to speak again. But kids are resilient he tells himself, as his Penske rental barrels through the wintery Wisconsin night.

  2. Leave it to you to bring in some polka music. But hey, we kids are resilient.

  3. Slouched in the passenger seat, eyes still closed, a smile reaches across her face and hits me like heat from a radiator. “Hey thought you was sleepin” I say -sounding as surprised as I am. Jen has always been able to sleep through anything. That much I remember. Slate was lucky to land this beauty. Seventeen when they met. Promised her stardust. Gave her half. The dust.
    “Where’d ya dig up that old song from?” She grabs my arm and holds it for less time than I hope. I want to reach over and touch her. I don’t. My heart pounding, the rumble of the road under the roar of my truck’s angry engine fighting its way over inhospitable roads -a warped symphony beating its own time. It keeps me from falling asleep. “Pull over. I’ll drive for a stretch. ” she says. Jen was like that. She always seemed to know how I was feeling. “Naw. Go back to sleep. We’ll be there in just about an hour” I say. I take a sip of my stale coke and swallow it down like bad medicine. “I’ll wake you when we get there.” Her silence is her agreement. “Hey, did Slate leave anything behind that I mighta missed?” she asks.
    I had plenty of time to think about what I’d tell her while she slept for two hours in the seat next to me. Instead I put the thought out of my head -doused it like a cigarette in a bottle of beer. Where would I begin? Oh Yeah. Matter of fact he left a note saying he hated his life. That his entire existence felt like he’d been sipping from a firehose. That it had been one giant battle with the blues.
    “Just this fucking cd is all.” is what I say. She reaches over and turns up the volume. Janis Joplin screeches out her own blues…
    “…windshield wipers slappin time, Bobby held his hand in mine, he did all that he could do…Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…Nothin babe if it ain’t free. Cause feelin good is good enough when Bobby sang the blues. Feelin good was good enough for me. Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee…dadadadayadda da yadda ya da da ya dada.”

    • Epic. The narrative and dialogue felt real. Thanks for sharing your piece.
      – peace.

    • Strong images. It look to me like you’re eager to write fiction and see where it takes you. This setting helps your story by letting your characters be pensive and also show how they feel. The long road is a great setting for you.

  4. The heater blasted the floorboard. His wool socks damp from the hike back to his truck. Reaching into a brown paper sack, the driver pulled out a handful of deer jerky. Toby sat upright, shivering as his black coat dripped melted snow onto the Realtree passenger seat cover, waiting patiently for his share of dried venison. The driver broke the splintered pieces in half. He harvested four deer last fall, three does and a two-year old buck.

    He took the does on private land during archery season. The buck was shot during rifle season with his .30-06, Sally. Meaner than hell, honest, and accurate – named after his old manager at the Dairy Queen that time in ’09 when the market busted, and everyone left the patch and returned home to sell their boats and four wheelers and other toys acquired while working eighty hours a week fishing wireline down an 8,000 feet hole in the ground. Some got part-time jobs. Most lengthened their criminal records.

    That buck was small, a mere 110 pounds dressed. A little fork horn that he had been watching on his trail camera for two days, he laid out a small pile of corn that he picked up at the Tractor Supply in Sallisaw on the way. Baiting was illegal on public land, but the timber company had just harvested 2,800 acres and he knew he wouldn’t see a Weyerhaeuser truck in LeFlore County for another six months. Part of the National Forest, the State Wildlife Department had jurisdiction over hunting regulations, but neither State nor Federal agency could decide who would patrol the pothole riddled fire roads of the Western Ouachita’s in their 2-wheel drive pickups. So, he baited that young buck and placed a clean shot through its shoulder from 95 yards. No such thing as game management on public lands. Hell, if he didn’t shoot him some yuppie from Broken Arrow with a $1,500 Hoyt and a CrossFit membership would hump these lands and kill that deer.

    Snake Farm by Ray Wylie Hubbard hummed along in the background as the driver and Toby chewed on the jerky, drowning out their smacking jibs. Toby was a rescue from Atoka. He’d been picked up on the side of Highway 7 by a well-meaning church lady and dropped off at Heartland Lab and Boarding. “Labrador-Pit Bull mix,” according to the veterinarian papers, poor Toby was snub-nosed enough to scare off those folks looking to adopt a gun-shy Retriever.

    The driver and Toby shared intense animosity towards gray squirrels. At a dead sprint, a mature deer could run up on you without a sound. But a half pound squirrel nibbling an acorn a mile away in a headwind echoed through the loblolly pines and blackjack oaks like an old Chevy stripped of the catalytic converter by the town junkie, barreling down a washboard covered county road with Pantera blaring from the passenger door window, air horn whistling Dixie.

    He once caught Skeeter trying to steal the catalytic converter out of his Tundra. Drawing down on the thief with Brandy’s Glock 19, he had every right to put a few holes in that boy. As the full moon reflected off Skeeter’s strung out, pockmarked face, the driver caught a glimpse of the clover tattoo on the inside of his own forearm, reminding him of the worst nineteen months of his life spent in Davis, forced to fall in with the Irish Mob. The locals would have bought him steak dinners for the next year if he had ended that meth head’s crime spree. But he still cried every time he killed a deer. Last thing he wanted was Brandy witnessing him standing half naked in her front yard weeping over Scott McIntyre.

  5. What you do well: You create a very strong contrast between the hunter/dog adopter/macho guy with all the trimmings–and–the guy with the soft heart. Keep writing!

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